history of rogue taxidermy
History of Rogue Taxidermy


Taxidermy Art, from Counterculture to Pop Culture

October 2016 marked the 12 year anniversary of the birth of a genre of pop-surrealist art dubbed "Rogue Taxidermy". The genre was the brainchild of Sarina Brewer and colleagues Scott Bibus & Robert Marbury. Together they spearheaded an art movement which has continued to gain momentum exponentially. Since its inception the genre has proven to be as controversial as it is contagious. Images of this unique variety of work now saturate every corner of the internet and it has inspired a revolution. The introduction of Rogue Taxidermy created a trend in the art world that changed the perception and assumptions about taxidermy, not only in galleries, but also in contemporary aesthetics. Its presence in galleries has carried over into popular culture, as attested to by the countless window displays and home decor magazines featuring decorative objects that mimic taxidermy. The efforts of the trio jump-started a  taxidermy revival in the United States and laid the foundation for what has since exploded into a global phenomenon.

Rogue Taxidermy, i.e. taxidermy art, is a genre of mainstream art which is often incorrectly categorized as an offshoot of traditional taxidermy. Neither the term nor the genre emerged from the world of traditional taxidermy. The genre was born from forms of fine art that utilize some of the same elements found in conventional taxidermy (e.g.; sportsman mounts and natural history museum specimens). The term "Rogue Taxidermy" as defined by the founders of the Rogue Taxidermy art movement, who invented the term, is "A genre of pop-surrealist art characterized by mixed media sculptures containing conventional taxidermy-related materials that are used in an unconventional manner". Understanding what a traditional taxidermy mount is constructed out of is absolutely fundamental to understanding the aforementioned definition of Rogue Taxidermy. A traditional taxidermy mount is comprised of a lot more materials than meets the eye. Animal hide is the obvious component, however some other examples of  "taxidermy related materials "include faux fur, bones, mummified remains, and prefabricated foam taxidermy mannequins. For a sculpture to qualify as Rogue Taxidermy its main component must be some sort of "taxidermy related material", however it can used in conjunction with other materials that are not taxidermy related. Artists working  under the moniker of Rogue Taxidermy create sculptures using all varieties of materials; glass, metal, paper, ceramics, stone, found objects, etc. They then combine these materials with elements borrowed from the world of conventional taxidermy. A sculpture constructed entirely from synthetic components still constitutes Rogue Taxidermy and the end result is not required to be a three dimensional representation of an animal's body. Therefore a Jackalope can be considered Rogue Taxidermy because "taxidermy related materials" are being presented in an "unconventional manner", however  Rogue Taxidermy is not simply defined as fictional animal hybrids or anthropomorphic animal mounts. This misconception is the result of mainstream media focusing their attention on the sensationalistic aspect of making art out of dead animals, thus largely ignoring artists within the genre creating work with synthetic taxidermy related materials. This has caused the term to become somewhat bastardized in recent years, and led to an inaccurate understanding of the parameters of this multi-faceted art form. Additionally, the Rogue Taxidermy spectrum encompasses work that runs the gamut from conceptual to decorative, and figurative to abstract. [click here to see examples of work that exemplifies the diversity of the genre]


The History of Rogue Taxidermy

The Rogue Taxidermy art movement began in Minneapolis Minnesota. It is here that both the phrase was coined and the genre conceived. In 2002 a Minneapolis based artist and classical taxidermist named Scott Bibus discovered the unusual taxidermy sculptures of Sarina Brewer on the internet. Upon learning she was also based in Minneapolis, the two arranged a meeting to discuss their respective work. Soon thereafter Bibus introduced Brewer to a local artist named Robert Marbury who fashioned creatures from recycled stuffed toys, faux fur, and urethane taxidermy mannequins. The styles and themes these three artists were working with had nothing to do with one another, however upon seeing Marbury's work Brewer realized their work all subtlety shared one attribute; they all utilized taxidermy related materials in some fashion. This concept is the foundation of the genre and how it would later be defined.

Upon this realization Brewer approached Marbury with her observation. She suggested the trio put together a group show and tie together their three styles using taxidermy related materials as the common denominator. Marbury liked the proposal and soon thereafter orchestrated their inaugural exhibition. They presented their three styles as a singular category of work and titled the show "Rogue Taxidermy".  It was held on October 15th 2004 at a neighborhood gallery named Creative Electric Studios in the Minneapolis arts district.

This first-of-its-kind exhibition was groundbreaking and it received generous press, including the front page of the New York Times art section. Response to the work was overwhelming and there was so much interest within the art community that shortly thereafter the trio decided to form an artist collective built around their style of work. Robert Marbury set up a website and they began gathering artists working within the same vein to unite under the umbrella of Rogue Taxidermy. The work caught on like wildfire, making Rogue Taxidermy a household name virtually overnight. The art movement that followed served as the catalyst for the renaissance taxidermy related decorative objects are currently experiencing in North America. Due to the group's efforts the genre of Rogue Taxidermy (alternately called taxidermy art) is now recognized by the mainstream art world as a category of pop surrealism fine art.

The phrase "Rogue Taxidermy" was coined by the trio in 2004. Use of the term has not been documented anywhere prior to their inaugural exhibition. The term was conceived of  by Sarina Brewer several years prior to the formation of the group but laid dormant until Scott Bibus resurrected it during an interview to describe the trio's work, subsequently introducing it into global vernacular.  


The Definition of Rogue Taxidermy